Soldiers with local tie honored in Florence

FLORENCE, KY (FOX19) - Soldiers with a local tie to the Tri-State are honored on Tuesday night in Florence.

The city adopted the 2nd brigade combat team out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky better known as The Renegades about a decade ago. And they're headed overseas right after the holidays, but not before they got a little star treatment.

"Everyone welcomes us with open arms. They pretty much treat us like rock stars more or less," explains Eli Weichert.

"The people are definitely great, there's a lot of support coming from the entire town," says David Smith.

Even some local girls scouts are showing their support. A few weeks ago they wrote the soldiers some cards. On Tuesday, they had a chance to meet their heroes.

"I'm just amazed how grateful they are for complete strangers just opening their arms giving so much and just barely knowing us at all," adds Eli Weichert.

Tonight, Florence mayor Diane Whalen presented the troops with a city flag. None of them are from Florence, but over the last ten years Whalen says she tries to make sure they feel like this is a second home.

"We send them off with care packages as often as we can get them there and that's done with the donations from the kids at the schools, the church groups, and just the regular citizens," explains Whalen.

"I've had plenty of groups that would send care packages but I've never had an entire city," says Justin Higgason.

A few of the soldiers have been to Florence before. In fact they visited this past Memorial Day and the city treated them to a Reds game and something known as the Renegade Olympics.

"We just went down to the high school and did some sporting events, did a basketball tournament. It was all a mix between our company and the people of Florence," says Smith.

"I got to re-enlist behind home plate at the Cincinnati Reds game that night before and it was a good time," explains Higgason.

Whalen says it's not just city hall but the entire community that embraces this group.

"It's pretty incredible to me that they've made this commitment to the United States recognizing that it takes them away from family, it takes them away from friends but they truly believe in what they're doing," says Whalen.

The unit says some of them will be able to spend time with their families over the holidays, but they will be deployed for Afghanistan sometime in February.

This is the third time the Renegades have visited Florence. Mayor Whalen says it often depends on how often the troops are deployed.

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